Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Are we looking for the wrong thing?

As all cancer patients are told, after treatment you will find your 'new normal'. Basically you get to go back to being yourself again and regaining your life. But it never seems to happen.

A friend sent me this article from the New York Times on a young woman, after cancer, is looking for her old self, and being lost in transition from cancer land to her new self.

It made me think (a dangerous proposition at times). What if you are a non cancer (or non any major ailment) person, you go through life and you evolve slowly and your life changes, and its no big deal, its normal. Maybe you grow apart from some friends, gain new ones; start yoga and stop running; quit eating red meat and white sugar in order to be healthier; redecorate your house, or kept trying to lose those same damn 10 pounds. These changes happen over time but if you look at yourself from last year to this year, have you made changes? Probably. And unless you stop and think about it, you may not notice them.

With cancer (or insert any life changing diagnosis), you are yanked from your nice calm life and shifted into cancerland, riding the cancer roller coaster while holding hands with your friends, family, and oncology team who want to know about every sniffle. Then poof, you are pronounced 'cured',  get a little certificate from your chemo nurses, and your doctors don't want to see you for six months, instead of every week or month.

You are supposed to find your new normal by tomorrow morning and move on with your life, go back to work full time and be healthy, instantly.

Instead, you stumble around and wonder what a new normal is. You might be depressed, anxious, and still clinging to the cancer roller coaster at every ache and pain. Slowly you stabilize, still gasping from the whirlwind you went through for the past year.

You have lost some friends or even family who went running from the word cancer, in case it was contagious, but you gained some new ones. You got some new clothes, your work schedule changed, you bought yourself a present for surviving cancer treatment (I got myself a new watch), and you are still trying to lose the same damn 20 lbs (10 from before cancer and 10 from chemo).

And what if this is the new normal? What if its harder to find because you didn't evolve slowly but were yanked from your life to cancerland and then thrown back to your life? You have to pick away at the layers of changes to see what you like and don't like and try to get a handle on everything. Some of the changes that happened may not be the ones we want to keep but we have to learn to accept them.

We can never go back to the way we were, no matter how much we try. Who was it that wrote 'you can't go home again'? Its true, especially with cancer, we can't go home again, no matter how much we try.


The Presents of Presence said...

Beautiful post ~ yes, the new normal after any major illness is hard to find and keep as it evolves as we do ourselves. Milestone year after year, even almost 14 years after diagnosis for me, the new normal continues to evolve as I do and as I side step many health landmines which crop up from time to time to keep reminding me that we are all just human, can only do our best and put one foot in front of the other daily. Great post today. ♥

Scott J said...

Great point about things following us around. When I tried to explain to a doctor filling in for my oncologist that two heart failures and the following mental scrambling made me seem untrusting of her, she replied that these incidents were in the past and not related to cancer. When I told the story to the volunteer serving coffee in the clinic, she understood without pausing because she'd had cancer herself and that complicated encounter with mortality.
At one time I was angered by being told to "get over it." Now I understand that people are so afraid of death they take talking about it as bad magic to be pushed away.

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